A young woman stares at us looking exhausted – and yet, exhilarated. She is fueled by coffee and (we can presume) little else. Her cheeks are hollowed and her hair disheveled, implying that her body is worn out by speed and demand of her work. Her sleep-deprived state is compared to drug use.
She is praised as the modern portrait of a “doer.”
In January, online freelance marketplace Fiverr released this advertisement in a larger ad campaign titled ‘In Doers We Trust.’ As this striking poster appeared on New York subway cars and Facebook feeds, the public – and the media – responded with concern. What are we demanding of today’s freelancer? To what degree do we demand constant availability from employees and contractors?
And are we supposed to work ourselves to death to be successful?
Fiverr stated that the goal of these ads is to “seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less.” However, in a response piece in The New Yorker, writer Jia Tolentino comments that “there’s a painful distance between the chipper narratives surrounding labor and success in America and the lived experience of workers.”
Translation: American culture says your success comes through round-the-clock action; our bodies (and I would argue, our souls) are struggling to keep up. Refer back to our frazzled friend in the ad for just one example.
As followers of Christ, what is our response to the culture of the “doer”? How do we create patterns of healthy rest in a world of 24/7 connectivity?
Here are three questions to consider in your work this week.
1) How are your daily habits affecting your soul?
In the 5280 Fellowship, we discuss how our daily work habits contribute to our wholeness as followers of Christ. Because whether or not we recognize it, our work is affecting our souls.
If our daily habits include multitasking, constantly checking our notifications and running on coffee alone, we are teaching our bodies and minds that worth comes from task completion. And this reveals what our hearts truly praise. If we prioritize productivity to the point of neglecting relationships with coworkers and clients, and even disregarding our own health, we are not trusting God with the ultimate success of our work offering (Psalm 127:1-2).
God invites us to find fuel in our relationship with him, and to love and serve others with the work of our hands. Where does your own sense of fuel come from?
2) Who can serve as your mirror?
In my role in a communications agency, much of my work can be done from a coffee shop or the comfort of my kitchen table. Thus, it can be tempting to blur the boundaries between work and home life.
I was encouraged by a mentor to set hourly limits for myself to assert my boundaries with clients and coworkers in order to safeguard times for rest and relationship.
If you (like me) are prone to blur the boundaries between work and other life priorities, who in your community can hold you accountable to balance? Maybe it’s a spouse, trusted friend, or pastor. Who is going to call you out and invite you to slow down when your body is revealing that the speed and demand of work might be too much?
3) How is your Sabbath?
Curious about balancing our call to hard work with our call to Sabbath, I recently sat down with Stephen Redden, pastor at New Denver Church (NDC) and director of The Church Cooperative of Denver, NDC’s church planting initiative. His diverse career path has challenged him to juggle the roles of husband, father, business owner and church leader simultaneously, and he still maintains all of these roles today.
In light of such deep and diverse responsibilities, I asked him how he maintained his own rhythms of Sabbath and rest.
I loved his response: “Resting is like a muscle. You have to work it to make it stronger.”
He admitted that there have been seasons in his life when business responsibilities demanded much of his time, attention and energy. But for him, it was crucial to remember that those demands were only for a season. He learned to be fully present at work when working, and fully present to rest when resting, ultimately trusting God to honor the boundaries between those spheres of life. His wife helped him gauge and maintain his health and wholeness in times of busyness.
“I had to truly learn the rhythm of rest. It took practice, just like my work tasks did. Both required intention to learn to do them well.”
Let his words be our own guide this week. As the tasks and calendar invitations build, let us exercise the muscle of rest, even as we stretch our muscles in work.
I think we can still be “doers” by day. But when we sign off of email on Friday at 5:00 pm, let’s trust in a job well done and rest with peace.
This post was originally featured in Denver Institute for Faith & Work.